5 Things I’ve learned in My First Year on Etsy

One year. 365 days. 525,600 minutes (RENT fans, you’re welcome.) Can’t believe it!

Even though I originally opened my shop in November of 2014, I was flying under the radar, relying solely on Etsy’s SEO and Pinterest to make sales – until May of 2015 that is! That’s when I finally mustered up the courage to go public with my shop and open social media channels, add new products, and heavily focus on making it happen. Since that decision, a lot has happened and I have learned many valuable lessons in all areas from customer service, to operations, to social media, etc. Here are 5 of the most important things I’ve learned over the past year:

  1. Pictures, pictures, pictures! This is an obvious one, but trust me when I tell you that most Etsy sellers *think* they have good pictures, but we really don’t notice how bad (or average) they are until we do! I’m part of a few discussion forums where I’ve participated in exchanges about many topics, including pictures, and we’ve all massively helped each other better position our items, learn about lighting, etc. My pictures have dramatically changed since I first started out, and trust me when I tell you I thought I was doing a good job, and then I realized how bad they were. Exhibit A:
    Left: Original pictures  Right: Proof that evolution exists

    Left: Original pictures
    Right: Proof that evolution exists

    The picture on the left was the worst of my bunch, but there are no words to explain how I thought that would be good. At the time, I always took my pictures at night with bad lighting, using my “Frosty” colored corrugated wall as a backdrop, flash photography, and weird angles. AND I THOUGHT I WAS KILLING IT. I have nothing to say for myself.

    PRO TIP: Take advantage of all the communities out there, and get feedback on everything you can. You may be a one-man-show like me, but there are so many people willing to help or give quick advice that will make all the difference.

  2. Planning ahead and organization is everything. I’m pretty OCD and I love Excel sheets (really, I do), but when it comes to a self-run business, you really need to be aware of all of your activities/responsibilities, the time it takes you to complete them, the ROI (return on investment) from everything (are you sure you’re spending your time appropriately considering how it converts into sales?), and do as much ahead of time as you can. I’m the type of person who does really well under pressure, and that makes me consciously procrastinate, but unfortunately, I also get “moods” during which I don’t particularly enjoy to craft, and those can last weeks. So doing things ahead of time is very helpful, so that when I don’t want to do something, I don’t have to. Also, everything is much harder than it looks, so you will realize that you need more time to do things well until it becomes second nature.
  3. The customer is… an interesting individual. I am happy to say that the bulk of my sales come from total strangers on Etsy, and I’ve come across so many interesting characters that I could honestly write a whole book about. Customer service has always been my priority from the get-go, so I really try to do my best with each order, but that’s not to say that things are sometimes out of your hands and you just have to deal. The majority of my customers have been super nice, and about a third of them have left me great reviews. A portion of them I’ve had little to no interaction with. And a few have been a little more work than the rest. It’s all part of the game, and you just have to play along and hope for the best result, but definitely don’t let it get personal. I let one order in particular get the best of me and it was about a month of feeling crappy 24/7. Not fun. Try your best to separate your work and craft from your personal life and feelings.
  4. Be your own customer. This one has always been obvious to me and I’ve tried to use it in every sense, but it’s always good to analyze every “front of the house” aspect of your business from the customer perspective. For social media, would you ‘like’ the picture you just posted if it came up in your feed? For SEO, would you search for the item you’re posting using those words? For customer service, would you be pleased with the way you’re treating the buyer if that were you? Always do things thinking of the customer and how you’d respond in their place.
  5. Learn, implement and evolve! We’ve all heard the phrase “nothing is more constant than change,” so we need to be sure that we’re evolving with the trends and that our products remain attractive and innovative. Also, something I’m proud of myself for doing this past year is I’ve participated in many workshops (online and in person), free and paid, and I’ve learned a lot of different things that I’ve implemented wherever possible and I’ve definitely seen results from most of them. Information selling is a big thing right now, so a lot of people are putting out content for free to entice you to buy, and it’s always worth looking into. If you learn one thing you didn’t know before, it’s worth it!

I could’ve told you these things a year ago because I’m usually highly critical and too self-aware, but it’s one thing to “know” something broadly, and another to truly live it and see the relevance of following through.

Do you sell your crafts? Are you in business by yourself? What have you learned since launching that you had an idea about or wish you knew before starting out? Comment below!

Flirting with… Vinyl!

For the most part, crafters and craft shop owners have a little bit of a niche, whether it be paint, paper crafting, glass work, wood burning, etc. I, on the other hand, am all over the place, excited to experiment, trying to soak up and learn as much as I can, and living out my wildest #craftasies. I enjoy this freedom, and though I’ve been working heavily on the paper crafting and painting world, I’m currently dabbing my feet in the unknown waters of Vinyl. The way I feel about working with vinyl is the same feeling you have when you like a guy who has a little bit of a dangerous appeal, and you know that the relationship has potential, but you’re scared of getting hurt… You know?

I have problems. I’m aware.

I never heard about vinyl prior to getting my Cricut Explore, which I planned on using exclusively for my card stock crafts. Then, my friend (who saved my life and taught me how to use my Cricut when I was struggling HARD with YouTube videos, so THANK YOU KATHY!) invited me to join a couple of Facebook groups called Let’s Learn Cricut Explore and Cricut Lovers Guide to Design Space (admin approval is required to join), which she told me would be a great way to get acquainted with the Cricut’s features and I could ask questions to the members – currently over 20,000 in each! So I joined, and realized that the vast majority of the members worked mostly with vinyl (or Heat Transfer Vinyl/HTV) to make decals or clothing accents. It looked cool, but scary.

I was intimidated to try any vinyl projects, because it just looked like a sticky situation (HA! get it?) and like I could mess it up easily. I avoided it at all costs and even though my Cricut brought a sample of vinyl, I refused to open it… Until I had to make an item which I knew would only make sense to be made with HTV. My friend was turning 26, and she mentioned that she wanted a sash that said “26 & Fabulous.” So I mustered up my courage, bought some glittery HTV, followed the instructions I remembered I’d seen in the Facebook groups countless times (mirror the image if necessary, check your settings, use chalk powder to show the lines when weeding, etc.) and got to work! Until I got to my first major roadblock: I couldn’t find an iron in my house. For HTV to work you NEED heat to stick it to the fabric. But fear not, because I tend to get REALLY creative when I’m in a craft jumble… So I figured, since it’s a sash, I could probably pull this off with my Hair Iron!

Ta da! I added a thin border with another ribbon to top it off, and it came out exactly the way my friend said she wanted it! She ended up wearing it all weekend long :) 20160108_223607578_iOS

After this, I felt a teensy bit more confident and willing give the permanent vinyl a chance, perhaps even decorate my Cricut machine (a lot of crafters do it!) so I decided to order a stack of sample colors from Amazon to have them handy for whenever I decided to step up to bat… Which didn’t take too long!

First, my mom’s friend asked me if I could make a decal for her car. Like, PERMANENT. And it had to come out right because it doesn’t come off easy and it was for her business. So I got to work, and I even stuck it on her car myself🙂 She LOVED it!

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Any pro vinyl crafter out there will know that this is cake. The real test of vinyl craftsmanship is layering, i.e. cutting out each component of the image in its respective color, and then layering it appropriately to create the final image. And you know where I’m going with this – someone asked me for something that I knew would look best layered!

My best friend wanted to do something cute for her son’s second birthday at school. She wanted to send some favor bags for his classmates, and she wanted them to be Mickey themed since that’s his favorite character. I came up with a design idea, and she loved it, so now it was time to work! Mickey heads with their names on them? Let’s do it!

AHHHHHHHH I LOVE CRAFTING! And my Cricut!!! For these projects, the most helpful tips I’d seen in the groups included setting the machine to cut “washi tape” because sometimes it’s too rough when you set it to “vinyl,” and to invest in a set of basic dental tools because they’re thinner than the Cricut tools. Also, Cricut Transfer Tape (or basic contact paper if you’re in a bind) is ESSENTIAL to transfer/layer all the pieces🙂

So now, having done a small scale version of the projects that thousands of people do every day with vinyl, I’m finally comfortable enough to work with the material and hope I can continue to improve my skills and do some great stuff with it! In the meantime, I decided to take my manicure to the next level with some more of that vinyl ;) 20160328_182320868_iOS

Etsy is Getting a Facelift!

A couple of months ago I created an editorial calendar with topics to write about so that I wouldn’t struggle to keep up with my blogging commitment, and one of the items I wanted to touch on is my love for Etsy. Besides the benefit of the platform over every other e-commerce site out there (in my humble opinion), I truly believe that Etsy is always in touch with its community of sellers, and tries to do right by us as well as by buyers. I’ve participated in multiple surveys and I’ve seen implementation of changes I’ve written to them about (probably along with a few other sellers), and the improvements just keep coming.

Then, two weeks ago, sellers were notified that Etsy shops were getting a makeover, and I was like “HA! Perfect timing!” Let me tell you, I’m apprehensive about change, but this is a GREAT one! The new shop look is much more modern, clean, manageable by sellers, and easy to navigate by buyers. It’s definitely in line with the wave of “power pages” (basically, having the bulk of the information about the website in one single page where you just scroll down instead of figuring out the menu) and I for one can’t wait until it launches for everyone on April 5th. Here’s the detailed breakdown of the most noticeable changes:

Etsy Shop Looks - Before and After

Etsy Shop Looks – Before and After

First of all, the new look will allow sellers to choose between having no banner, a small banner (which will not be mobile-optimized), or a cover photo (mobile optimized!). As you can see, I’ve already gotten a head start on mine, and I’ve chosen to use this set up because I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase my items being used by my customers, which buyers don’t really see unless they’re following me on social media (::cough cough:: Facebook, InstagramTwitter). It’s a little overpowering on the screen, but I really think it does more good than harm (if done right).

Second, hello modernization! I never really noticed how “old-school” the current look is until I saw the new layout. The set up is fresh, and I think they got it right by emphasizing the shop itself over the owner, which is currently reversed.

Third, sellers can choose the order of their listings and OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH ETSY!!! It was so frustrating to feel like my shop was “disorganized” because right now the items show up in the order of “recent purchases,” and to my OCD self, it throws off the vibe. We can also choose to feature certain listings that will show up above the full shop. Where is my ::hands in the air:: emoji when I need it?

Fourth, the listings themselves are bigger, which is a great way to show buyers more in less time.

Fifth, the reviews are right under the listings. This is going to be YUUUUGE for buyers (#Elections2016!). As a frequent shopper myself, I know how much reviews influence my decisions to make a purchase, and having this information so visible is definitely going to make the process much quicker.

Sixth, the Shop Updates. I think I need a separate blog post to explain these, but basically, Etsy is going social on us! Through the use of the “Sell on Etsy” app (which is absolutely necessary if you’re a seller ::ehem:: customer service), Etsy has created a new way to push content through the platform and out onto other channels like text messages and the aforementioned Facebook, Instagram & Twitter, and going as far as Pinterest and even WhatsApp! These updates are going to tip the Etsy algorithms in favor of active sellers, as they’ll showcase more of the shops that use them, and honestly, it’s a great way to post different angles of our products by stepping out of the 5 picture limit. When sellers post these updates to their social media channels, they work as a cute little hooks to bring perspective buyers directly to each listing. In conclusion, if you’re a seller and haven’t posted your first Shop Update yet, get on it!

Seventh (and last one I’ll include here because I’m running out of screen), sellers now have a chance to upload a video of themselves and up to 5 pictures of their work spaces (or whatever they want) to help buyers fall in love with them even more.

Maybe I’ll have to make this post a trilogy or a Harry Potter-sized novel to cover ALL of the great new features Etsy is rolling out, and all the reasons why I already love them, but the point is, April 5th, check out my new swagged out shop and buy something from me😀 Kidding, but really, SO excited for this. Thank you Etsy for being so awesomesauce! T – 1 week!

Copyright Infringement, Plagiarism, and ‘Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery’

Creating something brand new or finding truly original content/products is very hard these days. For example, think about current TV executive board meetings… In my head, they go a little something like this:

  • TV Guy 1: Hey guys, let’s talk about ideas for a new show for next fall
  • TV Guy 2: How about we remake/reunite Friends/Full House/Charmed/Sabrina the Teenage Witch/Gilmore Girls/literally any 90s show ever made?
  • All the TV Guys in unison: SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN!

Whatever happened to predictability? Ha, had to! No, but seriously, they really need to stop bringing back everyone and everything, especially when the shows had perfect closures – except Friends. They can bring back Friends forever until every cast member dies.

Anywho… The point is, a lot of times it can feel like everything has already been created/thought of, and it’s hard to think about something from scratch. After all, we have Pinterest!

I completely understand the struggle. As an Etsy seller, it’s my ultimate goal to have fresh and new items that my customers can only find at my shop, that keep them coming back, and that provide me with a stable income. I’ve tried from day 1 to make things people want, and because I’ve taken enough business classes, I know the key is to look for a market void and try to fill it.

The whole “photo booth props” niche was a very happy accident, but an accident nonetheless. I know there are plenty of providers of photo booth props in both digital and physical format, and I know they’ll continue to come up. I for one have tried very hard to create designs that are 100% authentic, different from what’s already out there, of good quality, and fun. Even though the bulk of my items are inspired by Disney, every single prop has been hand drawn, cut and put together by me – just like I make 4th of July, graduation, or wedding sets. The ideas/events/institutions have been around forever, but the designs themselves are mine.

So you can imagine, it’s disheartening/frustrating (to say the least) when you find that your designs have been copied by other sellers, right under your nose. And that’s what inspired this blog post. Is imitation REALLY the most sincere form of flattery? I’m not sure.

Yesterday, I was doing my routine SEO self-check, where I search random keywords associated with my items and I see in which pages they land, so I can make sure I’m staying relevant and top-sided in Etsy’s algorithms. As I start scanning for my props, on the very first page my eyes pick up on some familiar shapes, and I’m confused for a moment. Wait… Is that… Did I… No that’s not… Who… Woah. That’s my design, but that’s NOT my picture, or my shop.

As you all should know by now, I’m obsessed with everything Disney. So when the Descendants Movie came out, I was front row (to my TV) ready to watch it and fall in love with yet another new classic. It worked. I did. I died. And then, a customer saw my standard set of Villain-inspired props, and asked if I could make her some Descendants villain props. I already had 3 out of the 4 parents (Evil Queen, Jafar & Maleficent) designed from prior sets, so I got to work and drew out the last parent (Cruella), plus the 4 children: Evie, Jay, Mal & Carlos. I’m pretty proud of how they turned out, and I’ve already received a few orders for the set. So you can imagine, that when I see someone copied my design to the T, I’m a little bit flabbergasted. Let me show you what I mean:

I’ve checked for Descendants props on Etsy before, but there were none. Mine were the very first set of Villain parents and children on the marketplace. Until, quite literally, last week. On March 14th, another shop posted a set of Descendants props that looks like this:

Quite honestly, I couldn’t believe it! So eerie to notice the ends of the hair on the girls, Carlos’ (black and white hair) spikes, Jay’s hairstyle… They literally copied my design inch by inch. On the side of the parents, I think most of those props had been done before, but again, I hand drew my designs based off of the original cartoons, not other people’s interpretation of them.

Do you know what I did when I saw this? Wild guess? I laughed. I was in shock, but I try to avoid going crazy over things I cannot change, because ultimately, it only affects me. So I just laughed and, tried to figure out what I should do next. These were my options:

  1. Let it go (whaddup Frozen reference?! Whaddup iiSuperwomanii reference within the reference? #inception): be the bigger person, not care that my work was copied, move on…
  2. Report the listing: Etsy has an option to report listings. I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure under what grounds you may report something (probably over graphic or offensive content?). But, I really don’t want to start drama with another shop. I’ve been on the receiving side of crazy before, and it’s not fun.
  3. Send the shop a direct message: should I let them know I know? I would crap my pants if another shop messaged me telling me I plagiarized their item. I would for sure take it down, possibly apologize, but that’s just me. I’m not sure how the other shop will react.
  4. Write a blog about it to open up a dialogue and hear different perspectives on the matter? Sounds like a plan🙂

I won’t do anything other than #4 right now. I really just wanted to put this out there for two reasons:

  1. For aspiring or existing Etsy owners – I know of one owner in particular who went through this recently. She was devastated that her design was plagiarized and I believe she reported it, but I’m not sure how much she could do about it or how the case turned out. I just know that it tortured her and stole her peace for weeks. We all work hard to make our shops stand out, hoping for stable sales and happy customers eager to leave reviews. It’s not an easy process trying to make a shop grow and go from hobby or side gig to a business, and this is potentially a roadblock. It’s not a “fair” competition. It’s a dirty play. It sucks but it’s not a make or break situation, so I really just wanted to showcase the story and hopefully have it serve as a “everything will be alright” reassurance, which I’ll need to confirm in the future. But I really think it will.
  2. Trying to honor my #WCBBloggingTuesdays commitment, and always #KeepingItReal (also, please help #KeepInstagramChronological)

In any case, as shocked and surprised as I was, this hasn’t really affected me the way other events have (I’m an ultra sensitive person), so I’m proud of myself for that. At the same time, I know social media makes it seem like everything is peachy 100% of the time, and I don’t tend to share the down moments, but I think it’s an important part of my journey, and in every moment, there’s a lesson to be learned.

Please share your thoughts below, and any personal stories of dealing with plagiarism or copycats are a plus!!

My apologies… I’m back!

Hey guys!

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Welcoming 2016 with my beautiful mommy and grandma sporting my New Years Props! <3 

I’m sorry for being such a crappy blogger. I genuinely enjoy writing, especially about all my #craftventures, but sometimes the pressure of being constantly present and always delivering great content gets the better of me, and I fail to find inspiration for a good piece.

In order to combat this issue for 2016, I’ve worked on an editorial calendar in advance for the entire year where I have put placeholders for topics I am absolutely sure will be relevant for the date I’ve planned to post them, while also leaving some spaces to allow myself flexibility, depending on what’s going on at that moment.

In any case, this is a very brief post to let you all know that:

 

  1. From now on, I plan on posting a blog every Tuesday. This is a nerve wracking commitment for me to make, but now that it’s public, I’ll have to hold myself accountable somehow. May the odds be ever in my favor.
  2. I really like to document things, so I will be posting about some fun events or activities I got to be a part of since my last blog up until now (like five months… sorry!). I’ll get better at this, I promise.
  3. I love you! And the one place where I have miraculously managed to stay somewhat on top of is my Instagram account – @wcbcraftstudio – so if you’d like to know what I’ve been up to, feel free to head on over!
  4. I love to travel. LOVE TO TRAVEL. And thankfully, I’ve been granted some great opportunities to do so and see some beautiful places along the way. I also think I can pull off the concept that “to travel well is a craft” in order to get away with including my travel pieces in this same blog. The “Travel Bug” section of the page will be more active this year, and I hope you like it! But if you don’t think the content is relevant here, please feel free to bring me down from my cloud and I’ll put it elsewhere🙂
  5. Recently, I FINALLY was able to transfer ALL the pictures I’ve ever taken (close to 30,000 or so… I shouldn’t be allowed near photography equipment), so get ready for some serious but fun throwbacks that will give you a little insight into my psych(o)e.

That’s all! I hereby sign off, for the first of 48(?) Tuesday blogs of 2016!

Christmas & New Years Without My Craft Room :(

Lately, when I leave my house I feel a little bit of anxiety… for being away from my craft room, out of fear I’ll need a tool or something else I may have in there while I’m away. Or if I have an order in progress, I’m afraid of my house catching on fire, not because of my house, but because of the order. I know, I need a therapist lol, I’ve just really grown fond of being there and all my crafty possessions.

With this in mind, you can imagine when I go on an actual trip out of town, I may or may not go as far as caressing the walls on the way out, a little bit like this…

So when I left to Colombia for my prince’s birthday and to spend the holidays with the family, I took some coloring pencils, all my sketch books, some photo booth props I pre-made (for the birthday, Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve), and that was it. Basically, anxiety to the MAX.

Then, my family decided that Christmas Eve would be celebrated at my grandma’s house, where we barely have some lights here and there, but no tree, or nativity, or garlands, or pretty much anything to make it feel like the season. With very little time and zero knowledge of places where I could get supplies, all while trying to not spend much money, my mom asked me to transform the house into a Christmas town. Want to guess how long I had to make this happen? SIX hours. Want to guess how much I missed my craft room and supplies? Manic depressive mode FULLY ON.

So… I ransacked my grandma’s closets and boudoirs looking for possible decor, grabbed my coloring pencils and my agenda, ripped out some pages, and tried to make a semi-cute garland. On ruled paper. I died a little inside. But hey, true creativity comes not exclusively while in the optimal environment. On the contrary, the true test of creativity is when you “make do” with what you have. Chopped style!

Here’s a little gallery of the transformation I was able to pull off for Christmas at my grandma’s!

So all in all, thanks to some last minute rentals, my foresight to bring the props and some bibbidi bobbidi boop magic, the Christmas town transformation was successfully pulled off! But just imagine what I could’ve done with a tenth of my supplies?

Moving on to December 31st… For New Year’s Eve, we were going to my grandma’s sister’s house, so thankfully I wasn’t in charge of decorating, but I still wanted to pitch in for the festivities, so besides making props (which everyone really enjoyed!) I wanted to make a garland I had seen… where do you think? Pinterest, of course. I don’t know what possessed me to make the props yellow and black, but they seemed like a good color palette for NYE, and so I wanted to also make the garland in that combination so that it seemed orchestrated. I got some tissue paper and got to work (toggle over the pictures to see instructions in each caption!)

So that’s it! Even though I missed my craft room and supplies TERRIBLY and I wish I could carry my entire stash on me, Mary Poppins style, I’m still happy with what I was able to accomplish on the fly🙂

HAPPY 2016 EVERYONE!!!!

 

Fly in? Check. Props? Check. Unexpected decor request? Oh boy…

I don’t know if I’ve said it enough, but I’m absolutely, irrevocably, head-over-heels in love with my nephew. My little piece of heaven, David Alejandro, is a ball of smiles that melts me into oblivion and when he says “I yo yu” (I love you) the paramedics need to be called to resuscitate me, only for me to die right back.

Now that I got that out of my system…

My little scrumptious “little lung” or “pulmonsito” as I like to call him, (because I want him and I to breathe through the same respiratory system) turned the big number TWO this December. The theme for his party is absolutely no surprise, because it’s been making the rounds for a while now like a virus – Minions. These lovely yellow creatures bring out some great smiles out of David, and the way he says Minions is just AW-DOOR-AH-BLE.

David lives in Colombia, and I live in the US, and this long distance relationship kills me. I count down the days until I get to travel and hold him again, and we FaceTime to keep me alive in the meantime. We planned to fly in the day before his birthday, and of course, I wouldn’t show up empty-handed, so I decided to create some custom props that I’d bring with me from SoFla. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction and see him wearing them!

I pulled out the props from my suitcase upon my arrival, and placed them in the bed so I wouldn’t forget them the next day. David was walking around, and as the curious creature he is, the yellow caught his attention, and he immediately said “Minio” – and. I. Died. I showed him how to put it on his face, he walked over to the mirror, stared at himself, and started dancing and singing “Minio Minio Minio” and I had to receive CPR for 3 hours straight. Then I had to take the prop away from him because he got too excited and started banging it on the wall… After all, he is 2.

As I continue unpacking, my brother asks “soooo… at what time are you coming to decorate?” and I was like “hmm what?!” My family is well aware of my capabilities and love for the craft of event planning, and so it’s an unspoken expectation that I’ll show up to decorate every event ever. Even if I have to go straight from the airport and I don’t even know what decor items are available. So I said 10 am.

My #1 go-to piece of decor that is CHEAP, easy to make, versatile and makes a big pop are streamer paper garlands. I learned to make these when I was 5 in my after school care, and I’ve used them ever since.

Once everything was set up, it was time to party, and whip out the props! I’ve been making photo booth props for a while now and I’ve been present while they’re used at adult parties, but I’ve never seen children using them. Oh. My. Gosh. What an amazing feeling. The props became the ice breaker between all the kids, they didn’t let them go for one second, and at the end of the night, they all took one home as a favor. I didn’t even get to say goodbye lol! And my little prince would just stare at them and put them on his face (even if they weren’t face props) and all my dreams came true.

And that’s all folks! The party was awesome, David had a blast eating sweets and running around with his friends, and the WCB Craft Studio Photo Booth Props made it to Santa Marta, Colombia!!!